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Every picture tells a story

July 13, 2021

Or so they say. This one certainly does.

Sunday dinner with Thomas King.

Let’s start with 

The Meal

More than a decade ago my friend Catherine came to visit me in London. She arrived on Friday evening. On Saturday we were supposed to be going to see Rowan, a mutual friend, for a meal out in her neck of the woods. Said neck was Deptford, in south London. At the time I was living in Walthamstow, some considerable distance away.

Catherine asked if there was a bus we could take. She was only going to be in London for a couple of days and wanted to see more of the city than would be visible underground. As it happened there was  a bus that went all the way from Walthamstow to London Bridge where we’d need to go to get to Deptford. I knew from past experience that the journey took about 90 minutes, which was fine. Or rather it would have been fine if we hadn’t had to wait for an hour for the bus to actually turn up. I texted Rowan to say we were going to be a bit later than I’d thought. It would also have been fine if I’d known how slowly the bus crawled through the various east London Saturday markets. A journey that should have taken 90 minutes took more than three hours. At some point during the journey I rang Rowan to say how very late we were going to be. As she was heading out early the next morning for a camping trip this was becoming a disaster. It was agreed that instead of us travelling to Deptford she would meet us at a pub near London Bridge.

That was certainly a treat for Catherine as the pub in question was the George Inn.

There aren’t many pubs that are owned by the National Trust or have their own Wikipedia page, but this one does.

A couple of pints (and no food) later, we headed back (not on the bus) to Walthamstow. Now the question was what to eat? I could certainly provide beans on toast, but surely I could do better than that.

It was summer. There were lots of cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs outside. I had some prawns and some fresh pasta. I am not normally one of those people who can find a tin of lentils and a lump of mouldy cheese and turn that into a wonderful meal. But that night I took what was on hand and turned it into a really rather delicious meal: prawns and pasta in a lemon/olive oil (with a dribble of tabasco) sauce with cherry tomatoes, olives and fresh herbs. It has turned out to be one of my favourite meals. Catherine also makes it on a regular basis. Alas, so far there are no cherry tomatoes in my garden (story for another day), so I had to make do with inferior shop-bought ones, but there is an abundance of basil, oregano and chives. 

This is very much a summer dish, as the fresh herbs are crucial. Every time I make it for myself I think of Catherine and smile.

Moving on.

The rose

That rose on the table is pretty special.

As I have written about before, when I returned to Gabriola after Mike received what we thought was his cancer-related death sentence, there were two cats in the household: Angie, who was very much Mike’s cat, and her brother Tri. Both of them were well into their teens by then. No one was happier to see me than Tri. He immediately claimed me as his own.

As you can see from this quite typical pose, he was a very elegant cat. 

More than anyone else, this guy helped me get over Mike’s sudden death a couple of years later (a massive heart attack, not the cancer which he’d astonished his oncologist by beating). Tri never left my side, his thunderous purr never failing to cheer me.

It has been observed by my friend Krys that my garden is also a pet cemetery. This is true. There are three rose bushes in the garden that mark the final resting places of my crazy cat Clancy, sweet Angie and my guy Tri.

I haven’t been having a lot of luck with roses (another story), so this one is special. It’s the first rose Tri’s bush has produced in quite a while. Once again he’s cheering me up when I really need it.

The book

I absolutely love Thomas King. I’ve loved everything he’s ever written. 

As I suspect I’ve mentioned before, whenever a visitor from abroad is startled to learn about the appalling history of cultural genocide perpetrated against the indigenous people of this country by Canada and its “nice” governments, I tell them to read King’s non-fiction book The Inconvenient Indian. 

Not many people anywhere would be startled these days, not after the recent discoveries of hundreds (I think now well over a thousand and probably the tip of the iceberg) of the unmarked graves of the children who died whilst supposedly in the “care” of churches – and by extension the federal government who paid them – in the concentrations camps that were residential schools.

Although King (like every other indigenous person in Canada) knew the bodies were there, I doubt he expected the “news” to everyone else to break when it did, just as Sufferance was about to be published. 

I’m giving nothing away when I explain that the protagonist, Jeremiah Camp has purchased and now lives in a former residential school. The graves at the school are actually marked – with crosses. Given that the crosses symbolise what killed those children, Jeremiah is slowly replacing the crosses with painstakingly engraved stone markers.

This novel could not possibly be more timely. 

Other authors have written movingly about the past and continuing affronts to indigenous people and their communities by successive Canadian governments.  (Simply changing the name of the Department of Indian Affairs to the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, as was done by Stephen Harper, or breaking it up into Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, as Justin Trudeau did a couple of years ago, doesn’t really cut the mustard when the same paternalistic bullshit still prevails.)

But I cannot think of another writer who could so casually and with so much humour throw such solid punches in the faces of non-indigenous readers.

I’m only ten chapters in, but I can confidently say: Read this novel.

And that’s the story this picture tells.

From → Blog

  1. krysross permalink

    Well, that review is pretty hard to ignore. Will most definitely read. Nice about Tri’s rose. And nice to see this post. Sorry you’re in the dumps a bit. Teetering on the edge moi-meme.

  2. Stewart, Catherine permalink

    Very long day at work so dug some curried coconut carrot soup out of the freezer – and thought of you. Thanks for that great recipe. Sorry I made you take the bus that day, but oddly enough even when living in London for a year plus I had never made it to Walthamstow 😉 Foolishly thought it would be fun to see a part of the city I wasn’t familiar with. Oops. But it was a treat to end up at the George! And we both still make the prawn pasta so perhaps it was meant to be. Glad you’re writing again. I look forward to every post. xoxo

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